how to find a summer job

How to Find a Summer Job

Summer is here! If you’re looking to earn some extra cash this summer, here are a few tips to landing your first part time retail or service job.

  1. Ace your Resume

While it’s fine not to have traditional experience, you should demonstrate that you have some key skills. This is why a skills based resume often works best for high school and undergraduate students. In a skills based resume, you arrange key skills employers look for (ie. client service, attention to detail, teamwork) and highlight how you have demonstrated that ability.

Client Service: This skill is essentially the ability to be polite and the desire to help customers. To highlight your client service, include some of your volunteer work or extra-curricular activities. Have you helped parents find a classroom during parent-teacher night, or volunteered to tutor children? All of these examples can demonstrate strong client service.

Attention to Detail: Employers want to know that you are motivated and will do a good job. This can be demonstrated through good grades, or an event you have organized.

Teamwork: Do you play on a sports team? Have you successfully completed a group project? Those are all examples of teamwork.

When you write a resume, ALWAYS make sure your contact information (name, address, telephone and email) is located at the top of the page. Additionally, you should ALWAYS have someone spell-check your resume.

As a high school student, a resume should not be more than one page. If you are submitting a paper resume, I recommend printing it on heavier paper (something a little thicker than standard), because it will stand out from the other resumes. This simple change also demonstrates attention to detail and that you are taking the job hunt seriously.

  1. Drop off the resume

While many stores encourage people to apply online, there is value in going to the store and dropping off a resume. When doing so, there are a few things to consider.

Appearances Matter: You do not need to wear a suit or dress/heels to drop off resumes. One of my biggest mistakes at 16 was dropping off my resume, while wearing heels. I was walking around a retail store with a manager, and was told that if I got the job I would need to change my footwear because I would never make it through a shift in those heels. That being said, you should put an effort into your appearance. Make sure you look put together. Be sure to shower and brush your hair before you go out. To be on the safe side, avoid jeans. Instead, wear a pair of dress pants and a nice blouse/dress shirt/polo. It has been said that initial impressions are made in 30 seconds, so you want to make sure yours is a fantastic one!

Choose your Timing Wisely: I worked in a very busy retail store for a long time. There was nothing that drove me (or my managers) crazier than people who dropped off a resume on a Saturday afternoon when the lineups ran halfway through the store.  If you can, try to go on a weekday morning, or sometime between 3-5 PM. If the store looks busy, return another time. These suggestions apply to restaurants too. If you want to work in fast food or a restaurant, do not try to drop off your resume during a lunch or dinner rush. Chances are, your resume will barely be glanced at, or get lost in the confusion of the rush period.

Ask to Speak to a Manager: At the end of the day, managers are the ones who make hiring decision. When dropping off your resume, speak to a manager, so that they can put a face to the resume. Additionally, you get an opportunity to sell yourself. Have one sentence ready to explain why you want to work there. For example, if your goal is to work at Chapters, you can talk about your love of books, how a lot of your book choices come from the employee suggestions, and how you would like to contribute to fostering a love of reading. If you are applying to a retail store, say you love the clothing, and would be happy to help other customers put together outfits from the brand. If your goal is to work at McDonalds, you could say that you want to learn how one of the world’s biggest franchises continues to grow and change to meet customer demands. Now, McDonald’s is introducing table service and all day breakfast (if you find out when that is coming to Canada, please let me know).

If you can’t speak to a manager, follow up in a few days.

  1. Prep for the Interview 

If you’ve gotten this far, you are doing really well! If you are invited to an interview, stay cool, and follow these suggestions:

Practice: It can be pretty nerve-wracking to go into an interview. Ask a friend/parent/mentor to make up some interview questions and practice with them. This will help you feel more at ease during an interview. Common questions during interviews include:

Why do you want to work here? Think of a good answer that is true to you.

What would you do if you thought someone was stealing? A good answer could be: “I wouldn’t confront them directly, but I would notify a colleague/superior. Then, I would maintain sight of the customer and ask them if they need help finding anything. I would also ensure someone was with them if they walked out the door and the detectors went off.”

How would you deal with an angry customer? A solid response would be: “I would provide good customer service. If the client is upset because they can’t find an item, I would help in the search.  If we are out of stock, I would suggest an alternative. If the client is still unhappy, I would call a manager.”

Appearances still Matter: Make sure that you are put together. Think about the company culture; is there a specific uniform or style? Try to mimic it when going to an interview. Also, keep the amount of perfume or cologne to a minimum, because your interviewer may have a scent allergy.

Know the Company’s History: Most major companies have a website you can visit to learn more about them. You don’t need to memorize the entire site, but you should know the company’s history and values. These could be good talking points with an interviewer. For example: I read on your website that you are currently moving towards pesticide free/sustainable cotton. I think it’s great this company is so socially and environmentally conscious. Could you tell me more about the initiatives you are working on?

  1. Follow-Up

You made it through the resume and the interview! Within 24 hours of an interview, send a note or call to say thank to the interviewer. If you haven’t heard back within a week, call to follow up on the status of your interview.

  1. Just Keep Trying

Have you sent out multiple resumes, but not heard anything back?

Get someone to double check your resume; perhaps you missed a spelling mistake.

Alternatively, the number of hours you are willing to work may not match what employers are looking for. When stores are hiring for part-time help, they prefer candidates who are available at least 15-20 hours a week, and expect you to work on the weekends. If you indicated on your application that you would work 10 hours a week and don’t want to work weekends, that may stop some employers from hiring you, even if you are a great candidate.

You may not get the first job you interview for, and that’s ok. The more you practice, the better you will get. This is another reason why follow-up is important. If you don’t get a job, it’s a good idea to ask for feedback on an interview, so you know where you went wrong, and can do better next time.

Good luck with finding a summer job!


Photo Credit: Michael Carian via photopin (CC)

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